Imagine a glass of water. You don't have to imagine it, here's a glass of water right here in my hand.
I filled this glass with water from the sink in the sacristy, courtesy of the city of New York. The water in this glass has come a long way. It has traveled hundreds of miles from its source way in the mountains of upstate New York, and it came down some streams and rivers and into some reservoirs and then through a huge water tunnel and miles and miles of old pipes under the streets of the Bronx and Manhattan, right to the rectory. It’s a miracle, you know, having this water coming right into our homes. Every year they do a blindfold test of water from cities around America and every year the water from the city of New York is judged to be the best-tasting water of them all. (Take a drink of water.) Ahhhh. When my sister is thirsty and drinks some water, she always does that…ahhh! Nothing like a tall glass of water to quench a really big thirst. And this is great New York City water, supposed to be the best-tasting water in the world. (Take another drink.) Ahhhh. Good stuff!
I was looking at the fish in my fish tank the other day when I was was gulping it down a nice cool glass of New York water, and I though: you know, fish….I wonder if they ever get thirsty? It’s a question worth considering, don’t you think? But much more fascinating was watching Murphy, Fr Austin’s dog, the other day, when I filled up his water bowl. Did you ever watch a dog take a drink? They lap it up with their tongue, somehow. I have no idea how they any of it down their throats. It goes all over the place, not a very efficient way to get a drink of water. Anyway, Murphy was so thirsty, he stood there and drank it down, all of it, all at once, Lap lap lap lap… he didn’t stop until he licked the bowl bone dry (and it was a big bowl), and then, when he was done, I swear, he looked up at me, wagged his tail, and said, “That’s good ahhhhh”.
Water. Ahhhhhh. We’re made of water—something like 70 % of us is just that, water, and so if you removed all that percent of water from us like in a juice extractor, (it would have to be a very big juice extractor), the only thing left would a little bit of pulp at the bottom of the container. It’s what we are, bags of walking water. We are a tall (or short) glass of water.
It’s what we need, water. I think if you don’t have anything with water in it for like 2 days, you could get very sick, and if you don’t get any water in just 3-4 days, you can die. It’s one of those things you and I or any living thing can’t do without. Your spider plant, the cockroach under your sink, your doggy or kitty, your baby, your boss, your enemy, your lover, everything that is---even Donald Trump—needs water.
And since we are speaking of politics—I did utter the name Donald Trump---the readings today are interesting because of the implied politics related to the subject of water. Moses looks like he is about to be impeached as leader of the Jews—actually he’s afraid that he will be assassinated---because he can’t find water for the people he has led into the desert. Imagine what would happen to our president if our water supply vanished! And although the Gospel story about the Samaritan woman at the well is about deep thirst, it is also deeply political. In Jesus’ time, Jews and Samaritans were virtual enemies, and it was even more outrageous that a man would engage in serious conversation with an un-chaperoned woman in the middle of a public square. Jesus broke all the political walls in that moment, and it was over water—living water---that they went from red state and blue state to purple state. At the end of the conversation, the woman runs to her countrymen to proclaim that she has found the Messiah.
My mama loved to talk politics, and long before it was fashionable, she was fiercely pro women. I think she would have appreciated the way that Jesus was essentially confirming new roles for women in his community.
And the story of Jesus with the woman at the well also reminds me that during one of her last days before my mother died, when she was unable to eat anything, she asked for a glass of cold water, and I brought it to her, filled with ice. She took a sip of it, only a sip, and I asked her how it was. She looked at me with an earnestness and a seriousness one would not expect from a glass of water, and she said, "Ahhhh….Excellent", the water was "excellent" and she made me laugh at a time when I was doing my share of crying. The water I had brought to her dry mouth, her parched lips was "excellent", outstanding, rare, distinguished, transcendent. Like a fine wine the water was excellent, and at the time I wished it was so excellent it would heal her of her illness; as she sipped it I wished it would be an elixir and an antidote and a miracle drink so that I could keep her from slipping away forever from this world and from me. But it didn't, of course, and yet, yet, it was 'excellent', and as time has gone by I have realized that what was excellent about it was the fact that I gave it to her in her thirst, which made her happy and made me laugh, the miracle of the ice water there on the couch in the living room. For a moment we were bound together by that ice water, and it was excellent: the water, the moment, the miracle, the laughter, the love, it was excellent, it was truly excellent, and it was not just her thirst that was quenched, but mine as well.
It was like Jesus at the well with the woman from Samaria, Jesus turning the usual tables and asking for a cool drink of water, and it was the woman who drank, the miracle of the water, “ahhhh”, the two of them bound together over a well and a bucket of water, the love that was exchanged there, and the thirst that was quenched. It was excellent, especially for her, because this was a woman whose thirst for love took her through five husbands, so parched for love she was like a prune on the outside, wrinkled and withdrawn and cynical, five husbands later and still so thirsty--until that seemingly accidental encounter with a man—and an enemy, no less---at a well. Then, a sip of living water, and her face was transformed, moist and bright and wonder-filled. Excited and unable to keep it to herself, she ran to her friends and relatives, leaving behind the jug of ordinary water she brought with her at first. And what they saw was someone totally alive and truly in love--perhaps for the first time in her life. It was 'excellent', she radiated earnest excellence, which is indeed the only possible response to a sip of living water. "Come and see someone who has told me everything I ever did! Could this not be the Messiah?" They saw something in her they were thirsting for too, and they rushed to go find him---Jesus---the one with the living water. Red and blue becoming, well, purple.
They say that it is impossible for a human being to live without being loved, that a child or an adult who never knows any form of love is doomed to die, and die very slowly and painfully. It is like being squeezed in a juice extractor, with the setting on low, and the person gets more and more shriveled and smaller and smaller until there is nothing left but pulp and a mangled, broken heart. And there's a good chance that as the machine is extracting, all sense of God and belief in God is being drained as well. How possible is it to believe in God when you feel no sense of love at all?
Aren’t you thirsty? Aren’t you parched? Aren’t we, all of us, so thirsty, sometimes parched even beyond belief? I think so, I really think so. Even our president is parched beyond belief. Most of us, most all of us usually try to quench our thirst like the woman at the well--perhaps not with five husbands or five wives, but with other things that only heighten the drought. And like lemonade on a hot day, they only make us thirstier. The great fantasy and the great lie is that money or national power or material things or good looks or anything else that our culture encourages us to buy will slake our thirst and fill our hunger. But there is one thing and one thing only that will fill our deepest need and greatest desire and that is Jesus, the one at the well, the one holding the living water of life—which is really another way of describing his life-giving love. Jesus waits there, right now, for each one of us, and whether you know it or not, you're the thirsty one. Jesus says, come, drink from the well, it is excellent.
Come now, especially in Lent, come to this well, slake your thirst, and then go, like the Samaritan woman, go share it with someone, tell someone else out there in the second row dying of thirst about the living water and the stranger at the well. Go take that sweet water home, buckets and buckets of it, fill up the bodies of your wife and husband, your children, parents, cousins and friends, replenish the dried out hearts of your neighbors and co-workers, douse the stranger with the sweet water you have sipped, the water of love, the water of life, the water of Jesus.
There is an unending reservoir of it, if you just but tap into it, enough for all, enough for you, and it is, I guarantee, ahhhhh, excellent.